In the opening of the novel Forster presents repression within the English class system leading to a life with no view which is represented by the fact that Lucy and Charlotte did not get the rooms overlooking the Arno that they expected. Charlotte represents the stiff and conventional society that is holding Lucy back. Charlotte’s “protecting embrace” gave Lucy the “sensation of fog”. She wants Lucy to behave in a “ladylike” way and wants her to avoid any improper behaviour with young men.
Charlotte holds Lucy back from expressing her true emotions with George Emerson perhaps because of being humiliated herself in a love affair many years ago. “I have met the type before. They seldom keep their exploits to themselves.” This has prevented Charlotte from seeing that true love exists and so presents to Lucy “the complete picture of a cheerless, loveless world” with no view.
Forster also shows the reader that there are romantic features hidden inside her.
This is shown when she secretly tells Miss Lavish about George and Lucy’s kiss who then proceeds to write her novel about it. This same repression is seen with Lucy who plays her piano with passion showing that only through her music can Lucy truly express herself otherwise she is just an ordinary conventional girl. “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting” (p30) Mr Beebe is waiting for the moment when Lucy can break free from Charlotte and lead a more bold and daring life.
When Lucy returns to her home in England “the drawing room curtains at Windy Corner had been pulled to meet for the carpet was new and deserved protection from the August sun. They were heavy curtains, reaching almost to the ground, and the light that filtered through them was subdued and varied”. The drawing room curtains protect the furniture from the damaging rays of the sun, just as Lucy has been protected in Italy by Charlotte. There is no view and the light has been blocked. This symbolises how Lucy is repressed and prevented from seeing the true nature of life. They are denied the beauty of a “view”. Cecil also attempts to protect Lucy with his confining ideas. Cecil’s attitude towards women is arrogant and dismissive: he treats Lucy’s ideas as if they are of “feminine inconsequence” and wants her to conform to an image of a Leonardo painting of mystery and quietness, in which he is always dominant. When Lucy thinks of Cecil “it’s always in a room” and one “with no view” (p99). This illustrates how Cecil is repressing Lucy’s feelings, providing her with a life of monotony and so preventing her seeing the true view of life.
Forster uses Italy to awaken Lucy to new ways of thinking and the opening up of windows to view the world. “The well-known world had broken up, and there emerged Florence, a magical city where people thought and did the most extraordinary things” that has “the power, perhaps to evoke passions, good and bad, and bring them to speedy fulfilment” (p51). Italy is uninhibited by class restrictions and this sensation of equality and freedom shakes the foundations of Lucy’s previous view of the world. It is a place where anything can happen. Lucy’s view on life initially begins to open up by George and Mr Emerson swapping rooms. “I have a view, I have a view…This is my son…his name’s George. He has a view, too.” Mr Emerson is speaking of their views of the river, but the Forster intends the text to have a double meaning. The Emersons’ view has to do with more than the quality of their rooms and Forster implies a metaphorical meaning in that the Emersons have a superior view of life which is much freer and more exciting. Miss Lavish takes her Baedeker guidebook and subsequently loses her in Santo Croce when “for one ravishing moment Italy appeared” to Lucy. Inside the church he meets the Emersons who show her how to enjoy the church by following her heart not by her guidebook. Their philosophic view helps Lucy in her exploration of her own life and the world. “The pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy”.
Furthermore when Lucy witnesses the murder and the Italian falls at her feet she is overwhelmed the spontaneity of the incident. When she regains consciousness after fainting and is rescued by George, she realises that she “as well as the dying man, had crossed some spiritual boundary”. Lucy begins to realise that her image of the world based on how others think she should be is being replaced by spontaneous reaction and raw instinct. A new view is opening up for her. “She contemplated the River Arno, whose roar was suggesting some unexpected melody to her ears”. This view of the river symbolises the great change inside Lucy and the journey to find her true view of life. Lucy however is not reborn into a passionate woman until she is kissed by George. “The view was forming at last”. Forster is showing how Lucy’s discovery of her view mirrors her personal discovery. Her experiences in Italy change her, giving her new eyes to view the world, and a view of her own soul as well.
Finally Lucy at lasts gains freedom to look out of windows. She is able to see clearly what she wants from life. George tells her that Cecil only sees her as an object to be admired and will never love her enough to grant her independence, while George loves her for who she truly is. “Conventional, Cecil, you’re that, for you may understand beautiful things, but you don’t know how to use them; and you wrap yourself up in art and books and music, and would try to wrap up me. I won’t be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more glorious, and you hide them from me.” She then breaks off her engagement with Cecil and in doing this she breaks the social code of society.
A last minute meeting with Mr Emerson convinces Lucy to admit and act upon her love for George. “How he managed to strengthen her. It was as if he had made her see the whole of everything at once.” At the very end of the novel George and Lucy have eloped and have returned to the same Pension in Italy and look out from the same window to the future world. Although they both look out to the same view of Italy it is with a very different view of the world. George’s view has become clear through his relationship with Lucy who has given him a point to his existence and Lucy’s view has changed both emotionally and by breaking away from her social class. They both have a literal and metaphorical “room with a view” one that involves living for the moment and not simply for society.
In conclusion Forster’s title “A Room with a View” is very affective because through Lucy’s eyes we have strayed through the streets of Florence and returned slightly changed, unable to look at the world in the same old way. We all need the room to express our personal truths and the openness and freedom to love that the views in Forster’s novel represent.